Today we’ve got marathoner, barre-r and freelance writer Amy Lamare talking about how she got started with running extremely long distances and how Barre class not only helped, but improved the way she ran and how she approached running.
I have not been a runner for long. As the New Year dawned 2012, I was looking for a way to get back in shape. A lengthy stretch of unemployment and underemployment as well as a lower back injury had taken their toll. I was 55lbs heavier than I’d been for most of my adult life.
I had always been thin and fit. Not a natural athlete, what I lacked in coordination and flexibility I made up for with energy. Every aerobics fad to hit the culture from the late 1980s to the late 2000s became a part of my life. I’ve stepped, I’ve salsaed, I’ve hip hopped, I’ve Zumbaed—if it hit my gym, I tried it–even the pole classes. I’ve logged more time on stair masters, elipticals, exercise bikes, and treadmills than I care to count. I was fit. I was thin. But I was bored as hell. Nothing stuck. Nothing made me feel centered or inspired passion.
In January of 2012, at a size 14 for the first time in my life, I took a long, hard look in the mirror and decided this was not how I wanted to live or look. It just wasn’t me. I called one of my best friends and dared her to run the Disneyland ½ marathon with me over Labor Day weekend nine months later. I’d never run more than a 5K and that had been a decade prior. I do not have a runner’s physique, even when I am thin. Let’s just say I wear 2 or 3 sports bras at a time when I run and leave it at that, OK?
Also in January of 2012, I took my first Bar Method class. It was an eye opener. In my younger years, I was a dancer—high school drill team, dance classes, the usual teenage stuff. I was also very flexible. I am double jointed and was able to do the splits well into my 30s. Bar Method showed me just how inflexible I’d become. That first class (and many since) showed me just how far I’d let my fitness go and how very far I’d have to go to rebuild it.
Fortunately I was up for the challenge.
I started running. And boy oh boy was I slow. My first ½ marathon clocked in at 3:03. But I was hooked. I signed up for another and finished it in 2:52. Then I set a new New Year’s challenge in 2013: I was going to run three ½ marathons in a month. I signed up for the Tinkerbell ½, Pasadena Rock n Roll ½ and Surf City ½ and in all of them my time improved, but never was I faster than 2:37 (Pasadena).
Then I started working at the Bar Method. I’ve talked to hundreds of our clients about their fitness regimens, goals and challenges and noticed a common thread – Bar Method gave them a spot of peace and centeredness in their day. And it struck me—Bar Method and Running are not that different.
Running is a discipline more so than it is a sport in many ways. You can be the worst runner in the world, or the slowest, but if you keep at it, you will get better. It will never be easy and there will always be new challenges, but each step forward encourages you to seek the next.
Bar Method is also a discipline. Many of us come to it after an injury. Many of us come to it hoping to be able to do pushups on our toes, become more flexible, and build a leaner and stronger body. Bar Method never gets easier. There are always new challenges, ways to push yourself, tuck harder, go lower, and break through to the next level.
Nine months after my first half marathon, I was clearly hooked on running and racing. Through running, Bar Method, and adhering to a Paleo diet, I lost 63 pounds.
Before the 2013 Orange County Half Marathon I went to bed panicking. I wasn’t getting faster. I was slogging through the miles (oh so many miles) with determination, but no joy. I wondered if I was insane to think I could ever run 26.2 miles. I thought about how hard I fight time and again for just those 13.1. I thought about how my hips and hamstrings tend to lock up around mile 9, making for four very painful miles.
I woke up that Sunday morning at 3:45am to prep for the race. And instead of doing the typical runner’s stretches, I instead started running through a series of Bar Method moves and stretches. I did arabesque, I did pretzel, and I hit the floor for a two-minute plank. I did arabesque again, leaning down into it to get two different stretches on each leg. I did all of this to a soundtrack of Beastie Boys music while taking in carbs, electrolytes, bananas and caffeine.
The Orange County Marathon and Half Marathon course is beautiful. Much of it has an ocean view. But that isn’t what I was paying attention to. No, what had grabbed my attention was my speed. I ran the first mile in 9:04. I ran the 5K in just under 30 minutes, the 10k in 1:01, 10 miles in 1:47. I felt strong, I felt like my legs and arms were moving not from my hips and shoulder but from my CORE.
All the work I’ve done in Bar Method classes—all that posture work and core work—all those tucks and holds –had immeasurably improved my running in a way simply slogging through the miles had not. Running from your core does many things—it improves cadence and pace, it keeps your legs fresher over long miles, and it also minimizes a runner’s chance of injury.
Obviously, when you run, you use your legs. But for many runners, we use our legs way too much—leading to shin splints, mutinous hamstrings, hip pain and more. When you run from your core, you run with your whole body. You run aware of your whole body. You learn how to relax your legs even as the miles mount and the hours of running pass.
The Bar Method helped me take the peace and centeredness of class and use it as a significant strength in a distance run. The Bar Method got my hamstrings and hips looser and more warmed up than any traditional stretching had been able to do.
Four years after waking up overweight and making a decision to get fit and do it by running I’ve run thousands of miles. I’ve run 34 half marathons, two full marathons, and a handful of 5ks and 10ks. Running has become an integral part of my life. To be clear, I’ll never be very speedy, but the challenge of running, the opportunity to prove to myself that I’m stronger than I think I am, and the promise of the open road to run on keep me returning for more and more miles.
My ability to continue to run and remain largely injury free are due in large part to the Bar Method and the principles the classes have taught me, the mind-body connectedness it has given me, and the strength and posture I have attained as a result.
In 2016, I am planning to run 10 half marathons, a Ragnar relay race, and two full marathons, as well as at least 1,200 total miles over the course of the year.
Chase your goals, whatever they are, because nothing feels better than when you achieve them.